“Going back to school as a single parent was a significant concern. But this was an important cause and I wanted my children to see me work towards my goals.”

Maggie John, the single mom of two children, had already successfully built a career in oil and gas as a senior process engineer at U.S. Oil and Refining in Seattle, WA, but she retained the goal to lead across industry lines. She came to Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives to gain a business education while maintaining her career and family responsibilities.

Maggie, whose children are 11 and 5, expected balancing school, work and family to be “tricky,” however she noted that it is “doable” in Wharton’s EMBA program.
“Going back to school as a single parent was a significant concern. The entire family was embarking on this new journey and it was important for me to minimize the impact on my kids’ lives,” she said. “But this was an important cause and I wanted my children to see me work towards my goals.”

Maggie John and her children and father
Maggie John with her children and father, who moved in to help watch the children during the EMBA program.


Six Tips for Making an EMBA Work When Balancing Life as Single Mom

Maggie prepared her family for changes in a few ways:

1. Find a support network

The first step was figuring out child care for her kids when she was at school. While everyone finds different solutions, Maggie’s father moved in with her to watch her children on school weekends.

2. Make it a family experience

Maggie also decided to “take her kids along on the journey” at Wharton. “I brought the kids to campus for Admissions Weekend. And every week, we review our school commitments and prepare for the week ahead. I also pick something up for them from our fun selection of desserts on class weekends – it is a simple gesture that allows me to include them in this experience.”

3. Set apart time for family

Maggie converted Tuesday evenings into “weekend time” to make up for time away at school. Instead of focusing on school, they do something fun like going out to dinner or to a park.

4. Establish limits

“I’ve become deliberate with my time. I am comfortable saying no to commitments outside my goal areas,” explained Maggie.

5. Talk to other students

Maggie says her classmates are a “tremendous source of support,” especially the four other single parents in her cohort. When working in teams, she makes a point to talk to members about her schedule limitations. “I always tell my team when there are certain parts of the day when I’m not available. Everyone has their own limitations and we are very supportive of each other.”

6. Give support back

Another support network for Maggie is the Women of Wharton (WoW) Club. “It’s been very positive to have so many women to talk to and learn from at Wharton. As women, we face similar issues from how we discuss promotions to how we build our personal brands.”

Maggie noted that she also helped start the Giving Back Club for her class. She explained, “The idea is that our collective resources and knowledge could be harnessed to give back more together than we could on our own. We’ve already had a Give Back Day where members volunteered in their different cities. And we’re looking to scale up our efforts to match students with nonprofit boards and organize more social impact activities.”

Posted: May 4, 2017

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